Food Safety Risks Explained

Learn about the food safety risks involved in producing meat and seafood products.


  • Food can become unsafe because of biological pathogens, chemical contaminants and physical hazards.
  • All businesses that produce meat and seafood products in Victoria have a PrimeSafe licence that requires them to identify and control food safety risks.
  • PrimeSafe audits businesses to make sure that they are complying with their licence.

The production of meat and seafood products is highly regulated to keep food safe. 

Food can become unsafe to eat during handling, storing and processing from:

  1. biological pathogens
  2. chemical contaminants
  3. physical hazards

Biological pathogens are bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. Biological pathogens in food can cause severe illness. Examples of biological pathogens are Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, norovirus, and Campylobacter.

Chemical contaminants can cause illness when consumed in high quantities. Examples are:

  • Pesticides
  • Heavy metals like lead and mercury
  • Food additives
  • Cleaning chemicals
  • Naturally occurring toxins such as aflatoxins in peanuts.

Foods with proteins that trigger an allergic reaction in some people are also an example. Common allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, lupins, soy, fish, crustacea, sesame seeds, and sulphites.

Physical hazards can enter food during production, processing, packaging, or distribution. Examples of physical hazards are:

  • Glass
  • Metal fragments
  • Plastic
  • Hair
  • Pests such as insects
  • Other foreign materials

Not controlling the safety of food can lead to:

  • consumers becoming ill from eating the food
  • public health risks
  • economic losses
  • legal consequences
  • damage to reputation and trust in food products and brands.

Learn more about food safety and the levels of food safety risk in our  Starting a New Business factsheet.

Examples of when food can become unsafe

Food can become unsafe when:

  • processing and manufacturing processes are poor and biological pathogens grow (such as inadequate cooking or chilling)
  • poor hygiene and sanitation practices transfer biological, chemical or physical hazards to the food products 
  • there is poor handling and storage practices such as not keeping the food at the correct temperature 
  • food is incorrectly handled or packaged (such as providing incorrect allergy information on the label)

PrimeSafe’s role to keep meat and seafood products safe

We support businesses that slaughter, harvest, and process meat and seafood to understand food safety and control their risks. 

All businesses that produce meat and seafood products in Victoria have a PrimeSafe licence. Each licence sets out how the business will keep food safe. We regularly audit and inspect businesses to make sure they are complying with their licence.

We can help you to understand the requirements of your licence.

For help and support you can contact us.